Early Physical Therapy to Avoid Opioids, Injections, and Surgery

“For Nontraumatic Knee Pain, Early Rehab Lowers Odds of Later Use of Opioids, Injections, Knee Surgery”


Research at the University of Pittsburgh found that patients with nontraumatic knee pain who received rehabilitation within 15 days of diagnosis were 33% less likely to use narcotic analgesics in the following year, compared to patients who received delayed or no rehabilitation. They were also 50% less likely to move to nonsurgical invasive procedures such as corticosteroid injections, and 42% less likely to undergo surgery.

This study defined rehabilitation as “exercise or other nonpharmacological services or procedures that are recommended…” This definition included exercise, nutritional counseling, functional training, physical agents, manipulation, and manual therapy.

Now here’s the startling facts- Of the over 52,000 people included in this retrospective cohort study, only 11% received early, intermediate, or late rehabilitation! Of the 5,852 patients who did go to rehabiliation, 52% of these received early rehab, 27% received rehab 16-120 days latera, and 21% had late exposure to rehab.

And when it comes to later of opioid pain medication and nonsurgical invasive procedures, early rehab seems to make the difference.

So if you are experiencing knee pain, please consult a physical therapist as early as possible. Don’t delay in getting treatment.


—Korey Pieper, DPT, OCS, CCI